GENESEO — The upcoming Vendor Fair to benefit Operation Christmas Child will be in a new location this year, and there is still a need for more vendors.
According to Shelly Emerick, who helped organize the first Vendor Fair five years ago, there is sufficient space for additional vendors to join the effort. The event will take place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26, at Grace United Methodist Church, 318 North Center St., Geneseo. In previous years, the Fair was held at the Geneseo Moose Lodge.
“We are moving to the church location because the Fair has become so popular that we needed more space. Emerick said. “There also will be a vendor located in a trailer in the church parking lot, and if anyone who offers items form a trailer would also like to locate in the outdoor area, please contact us.”
“The fair will feature a variety of vendors and crafters, and there is still plenty of room for more,” Emerick said. Anyone interested in participating should contact Emerick, 309-945-3700, or Mercedes Bealer, 309-269-4294, drop-off location team leader for Operation Christmas Child.
Vendors already signed up for the Fair include Scentsy Fragrance, Tupperware, Beyond the Paint Color Street (nail art and polish strips); LuLa Roe Clothing, which will be displayed in a trailer parked in the lot; Birdies Purdies; Helen’s Memory Bears; Origami Owl; and Watkins Living Naturally.
In addition to vendors, the day will include raffle drawings for items donated by the participating vendors and local businesses.
There also will be a lunch stand and bake sale.
“Profits from hosting the fair, raffles, bake sale and lunch stand will be used to help cover shipping costs for Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes,” Emerick said, explaining that many times people donate shoeboxes filled with items but not the $9 that covers shipping costs as well as “The Greatest Gift” booklets, which are packed in each shoebox and written in the language of the child receiving the shoebox.
Last year, 2,012 shoeboxes were collected at the Geneseo Evangelical Free Church from Geneseo and the surrounding area.
Emerick said the congregation at Grace Church packed 937 shoeboxes.
Empty shoeboxes will be available at the Oct. 26 Vendor Fair for anyone who would like to take a shoebox and fill it with items.
“We cannot use anything glass, liquid, camouflage or war-related, or any type of food,” Emerick said.
Operation Christmas Child is an outreach of Samaritan Purse, an international Christian relief and evangelism organization. The nonprofit organization specializes in meeting the critical needs of victims of war, poverty, disease and natural disaster, in order to demonstrate God’s love and share the Gospel.
Mercedes Bealer, of Geneseo Evangelical Free Church, coordinates the shoebox drop-off process, at her home church, where shoeboxes are left and then packed in large boxes and then transported to Coram Deo Bible Church in Davenport. From there, they are taken to Chicago, to the Operation Christmas Child Processing Center, where they are checked in to make certain all shoeboxes contain items on the approved list. The shoeboxes are then distributed in the United States and throughout the world.
Collection Week at Geneseo Evangelical Free Church is from noon to 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 18, and Tuesday, Nov. 19; and from noon to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 20; noon to 6 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 21, and Friday, Nov. 22; 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Nov. 23; 8 a.m. to noon on Sunday, Nov. 24; and 9 to 11 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 25.
Geneseo Evangelical Free Church has served as the drop-off location for the past 10 years as the result of the efforts of David and Debra Jones, members of Geneseo Evangelical Free Church, who introduced Operation Christmas Child to their church congregation. David Jones is the area coordinator of the Lower Midwest Region for Operation Christmas Child.
Emerick said Geneseo Evangelical Free Church had served as the drop-off site longer than any other location in the Quad-Cities and surrounding area.
Molly DeBrock brought the Operation Christmas Child ministry to her home church, Grace United Methodist in Geneseo.
DeBrock was dedicated to that mission for six years until 2014 when she began college studies. Her church family and friends stepped up to take over the project with coordinator Shelly Emerick at Grace church.
It seemed a natural fit for Emerick and her husband, Doug Emerick, and their two children, as they also made Operation Christmas Child a mission of the entire family.
“We have always loved doing this project,” Emerick said. “I have a special place in my heart for kids, and I love Christmas. ... This project puts the two together just perfectly.”
“We never know where any of the shoeboxes will end up, so it is up to God to deliver them to the right kids,” Emerick said. “That really shows that God is in charge of the project.”